Curiosities are sparked by a single event or observation, rather than a repeated pattern.
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Contradictions can arise between evidence and belief, and lead to the rejection of the prevailing wisdom of the time. They are spurred by contrarians and sceptics who doubt and disbelieve the currently dominant story. Examples include analysts who warned about shoddy home loan practices that led to the financial crash.
The bubble grew because of the mistaken belief that house prices would always increase. Over time, growing discrepancies lead to a paradigm shift, as explained by physicist Thomas Kuhn in The Structure of Scientific Revolution. Creative desperation arises when trying to find a way out of an inescapable emergency. A flexible mind is needed here to cast away existing solutions and assumptions, eg.
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Wagner Dodge using fire to fight fire by creating patches of burnt grass in the face of advancing flames. Another example is Napoleon driving away the British from Toulon by cutting supply lines elsewhere instead of attacking them at the port. The connection, coincidence and curiosity paths create new anchors or beliefs and combine them with others; the contradiction path uses a weak anchor to rebuild the story; and the creative desperation path discards a weak anchor.
Gary defines this as the Triple Path Model of insight. Part II of the book focuses on obstacles to insights at the individual and organisational level. These can include stupidity, forgetfulness, lack of alertness, delusion, flawed beliefs, inexperience, passivity, over-confidence, and rigid reasoning styles. Attuning and sensitisation can help open the mind to the possibility of new insights. It helps deal with failure and stay the course despite some initial challenges.
Some competitors had the flawed belief that protein carried genetic code, or were not active in seeking out the functional implications of DNA structure.
Part III of the book discusses how to improve the flow of insights into oneself, other people, and organisations. Understanding the five types of insight triggers helps create openings for discoveries. Other suggestions are increasing diversity and density of idea exposure, connecting to creative people, and fostering serendipitous collision of ideas. To help others get insights, Gary advises tapping into their desire for insights, understanding their blocks, and guiding them towards coming up with insights on their own.
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Emergence rather than push activities are recommended. This calls for compassion, empathy and appreciative inquiry. For example, sports coaching can involve asking players to imagine and predict how the ball moves, rather than directly describing actions and moves. Teachers can let students participate in peer activities to surface learnings, rather than via direct instruction.
Performance improvement in organisations comes from a combination of fewer errors and more insights. However, most managers tend to focus excessively on preventing mistakes since errors are visible, costly, embarrassing, and damaging to the ego and to the brand. Many business processes software tools are not designed to promote exploration but adhere to rigid processes.
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Search engines should show not just directly relevant results but also challenging and even uncomfortable items, Gary suggests. Companies tend to excessively rely on checklists and procedures; speculative and dissenting behaviours are discouraged. Excessive embracing of Six Sigma can lead to loss of creativity and innovation, and companies like 3M scaled it down. While the above activities should be seen in the proper context of mature, standardised and mission-critical processes, there should also be room for questioning the shelf-life of assumptions and beliefs.
Gary calls for a balance between excessive control and the quest for new insights.
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Unfortunately, many companies bury, stifle or ignore insights; this also leads to junior employees self-censoring their insights. For example, FBI agent Kenneth Williams noticed a contradiction: several Arab men were taking flying courses in Phoenix, but did not want to practice takeoffs and landings. Companies should actively promote generation, publication and documentation of insights, eg.
Companies should also act on insights in a timely manner. Examples of successful business reinvention include IBM. In contrast, Kodak did not make the radical changes to move from film to digital photography ironically, it was Kodak engineer Steve Sasson who developed the first digital camera in It was outflanked by Microsoft Encarta in Gary feels that anyway, EB would have found it tough to compete with Wikipedia.
In the final chapter, Gary explains how the ancient Greeks even worshipped the human capacity for insight. Insights can even be seen as magical in that regard. Gary defines insights as the discovery of new patterns, and intuition as the use of patterns that are already learned. An interesting feature of getting insights is that even others with access to the same information and in the same context may not achieve the same insight.
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